To prepare you for the tournament, The18 has launched team-by-team previews for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Here’s the Serbia World Cup preview — they’ll play in Group G against Brazil, Switzerland and Cameroon.
Serbia World Cup 2022 Preview
World Cup appearances: 13th (third as Serbia)
Best finish: Fourth-place (1930, 1962)
How they got here: By finishing top of UEFA qualifying Group A, forcing second-place Portugal into the playoffs and eliminating Ireland.
Coach: Dragan "Piksi" Stojković (Serbian)
Strongest XI: (5-2-1-2) Vanja Milinković-Savić; Filip Kostić, Strahinja Pavlović, Stefan Mitrović, Nikola Milenković, Andrija Živković; Nemanja Maksimović, Sergej Milinković-Savić; Dušan Tadić; Dušan Vlahović, Aleksandar Mitrović
Injuries: Erhan Mašović (adductor), Ivan Ilić (muscle), Darko Lazović (muscle)
What's to like: Aleksandar Mitrović. The man effectively told Cristiano Ronaldo that his time was over and scored eight in qualifying — including a surreal winner in Lisbon — during a streak of form that saw him break the EFL Championship scoring record with 43 goals in 44 games before continuing that ridiculous pace in the EPL.
Up top, Mitrović can be paired with Juventus striker Dušan Vlahović or Fiorentina's Luka Jović with Ajax's Dušan Tadić tucked in behind as the No. 10. There are very few nations that can match that firepower, while Lazio's Sergej Milinković-Savić has been one of Serie A's finest midfielders over the last five years.
Serbia's defense might not be good enough to withstand Brazil, but they'll approach Switzerland and Cameroon knowing that they can do a lot of damage.
What's not to like: The boys at the back can go on tilt. Serbia's failure to qualify for Euro 2020 saw the team score 20 goals in 10 games but concede 19. The defense was improved this cycle, but Serbia still conceded more than both Portugal and Ireland in qualifying. In recent matches, they've conceded three to Denmark and two to Slovenia.
You wouldn't bet on Serbia beating Brazil in an attacking shootout, and there's also plenty of danger in a Cameroon side that delights in getting forward through Vincent Aboubakar, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Karl Toko Ekambi. Serbia could be involved in the most exciting match of the group stage, but they'd probably be the team going down in a blaze of glory.
X-Factor: Dušan Vlahović is only 22 but has a good strike rate for Serbia (eight from 16) and is going to enjoy his time away from Juventus immensely given the club's struggles this year.
Best hair: Srdjan Babic
Srdjan Babic: I have been playing for Serbia since I was 14 & I see this as a wonderful return. Stojkovic gave me a chance and I will do my best to justify his trust. Bosnia & Herzegovina was also interested in me but I never had any dilemma. Piksi's call can't be rejected
— Serbian Football (@SerbianFooty) September 21, 2022
Most likely to fuck it all up: Aleksandar Mitrović. He might win the Golden Boot, he might headbutt Neymar in the opening match and earn a three-game suspension for violent conduct.
What will make this a good World Cup: Serbia hasn't advanced beyond the group stage since 1998 (as FR Yugoslavia) so that's the mission.
Bonus prediction: Luka Jović is the first player sent home from Qatar after trying to host a bbq outside Serbia's team hotel without proper approval from the Supreme Committee.